KANSAS CITY — Missouri will receive more than $15 million in federal stimulus grants as part of a national effort to boost the battery and electric vehicle industry and create jobs.
U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke announced the Department of Energy grants during a visit to Kansas City on Wednesday. The Obama administration is providing $2.4 billion in stimulus funds for 48 grants in 25 states, with the biggest shares going to Indiana and Michigan to create jobs in the automotive industry.
"The president believes — as do I — that clean energy and efficiency investments are good for our economy, our national security and our environment," Locke said, adding that the country needs to invest heavily in alternative energy and pollution-cutting technology.
"We're putting our economy at risk by falling behind foreign competitors in the race for jobs and technology that will drive global markets for generations," he said.
Locke made the comments while visiting the fleet management facility for Kansas City Power & Light, a regional utility that has agreed to purchase all-electric vehicles made by Smith Electric Vehicles.
Smith Electric currently makes its vehicles in Europe. But its U.S. subsidiary is receiving a $10 million grant from the pool announced Wednesday to help build its planned manufacturing plant near the Kansas City International Airport.
Locke said the grant would help Smith build up to 100 electric vehicles, including vehicles developed in partnership with Ford Motor Co., such as an electric version of the F-150 pickup. Besides KCP&L, Smith Electric has commitments from such companies as AT&T, Coca-Cola, Frito-Lay and Staples.
Bryan Hansel, Smith Electric U.S.'s chief executive officer, said the company already planned to hire 50 people by the end of the year. He said the grant will help speed production and could reduce the trucks' price tags, which can reach up to $150,000.
"The fact the DOE stepped up next to us and the administration stepped up and has borne some of (the) risk truly is going to enable these visionary companies to adopt our products quicker," Hansel said.
Ford will receive $30 million for an ongoing project in which the automaker is teaming with 15 U.S. utilities on developing plug-in electric-gas hybrid vehicles, including the hybrid Escape, which is manufactured in Kansas City and Michigan.
Ford spokeswoman Jennifer Moore said the company is evaluating the award and doesn't know yet if it will lead to increased production at either plant.
The Missouri University of Science and Technology also will receive $5 million for electric vehicle research and job training.